Home' Greymouth Star : August 2nd 2014 Contents Greymouth Star
Saturday, August 2, 2014 - 5
f I had anything going for me as a kid
wanting desperately to play footy it was
a fair measure of pace and a somewhat
confusing (to me as much as anyone)
The speed had evolved from self-
preservation after throwing (thus also developing
a cricket skill) lemons on to the roof of the short-
tempered old bugger who lived down the street.
And the sidestep was perfected evading a frantic
mother who was convinced the big, rough kids from
up the Grey Valley were going to pulverise her frail
little boy. Even as I stood at the gate of 37 Marsden
Road waiting for a lift to my Marist midget-grade
debut — the laces of my size four boots tied around
my neck — she was questioning my sanity, making
sure I was wearing clean underwear, and stuffing a
spotless hanky into my pocket.
She never admitted it, but I’m sure mum had a
bag secretly packed with pyjamas, dressing gown
and toothbrush, dreading the phone call that would
have her running down Marsden Road, across the
Recreation Ground and along High Street to the
hospital emergency room.
So began an association with the Greymouth
Marist Rugby League Club, which lasted the best
part of a decade before, at 16, I reluctantly left the
West Coast to work over the hill.
My earliest Marist memory was using our
aluminium sprigs to break the ice on and around a
frozen playing field atop the hill at Ngahere so that
our game and those scheduled to follow could go
I was fortunate to come through the grades with
a bunch of guys, particularly forwards, who had
the size and skills to dominate their opponents.
Whether they were bursting through the opposition
defences or pushing rival scrums off the ball, they
made life easier for the halfback who trailed along
behind them to get a clear run to the tryline.
All of that culminated with a great season in 1961,
when Peter Mason was captain of a New Zealand
schoolboys team, which also included clubmates
Gary Cowan and Tony Reiha. O ur West Coast
side beat Canterbury at the national schoolboys
tournament in Wellington, though Auckland put us
in our place.
We were probably exhausted by then. The Marist
High School contingent had been required to play a
first XV game against Invercargill Marist at Rugby
Park on the Monday, travelled to Christchurch and
then by ferry from Lyttelton to Wellington that
afternoon and night, and battled through daily
tournament matches during a wet and windy week
in the capital.
Johnny Knapp was kind enough to drive us across
the alps. Unfortunately, his trusty old car came off
second best with a rock lying on the road and his
radiator was munted. We made the boat because
Barney Trowbridge came along in a vehicle as big as
a bus and piled us and our gear in with his family.
We stopped at Springfield to arrange help for the
Club loyalties ran deep. My cousins Brian and
Owen Senior played for Brunner alongside the
intimidating Jock Butterfield and Trevor Kilkelly,
and on occasions I would stay with my aunt in
Taylor ville. If they took me along to the domain to
watch Brunner play I would be careful to make sure
my green and gold Marist scarf was hidden under
the collar of my coat.
In those days Wingham Park had a roof-top press
box and dad was a good mate of Jack McInroe, the
Greymouth reporter for The Press. So I got to watch
many games up there and developed a liking for
sports journalism. On the wall there was an action
photo of a star player wearing a green jersey with
a gold vee, and I wondered why I could not spot
him in the Marist team. It was actually Australian
captain Clive Churchill in his Kangaroos strip.
Wingham Park was our Wembley when we were
kids. Because of our success we played a lot of
curtain-raisers at headquarters, and some of us were
lucky enough to be chosen for West Coast sides
which played curtain-raisers to two inter-island
matches in Christchurch. I didn’t know it at the
time but I first came up against Frank Endacott in
the under-12s in 1958 — 44 years later I wrote his
Sport ruled for us Greymouth youngsters.
We had the energy to play both rugby codes on
one weekend; on primary school Fridays there
was hockey at Nimmo Park; and in summer we
embraced cricket, softball and tennis. And even
table tennis, because there was a cute girl playing
for Cobden. The only sport I could not hack was
swimming. I still have a certificate testifying that
I swam five yards. I swear I only walked three of
In one of my more rebellious moods I agreed
to play rugby for Kumara alongside several
schoolmates. There was no ruckus after my debut
against a Hokitika team. But when we beat Marist
at Victoria Park with half the school teaching staff
looking on I knew I was in for a Monday morning
roasting. Brother Cletus laid down the law that
Greymouth-domiciled Marist pupils would wear
the green and no other colour.
That, at least, was not as painful as New Zealand
Trotting Cup day in 1962, a few weeks before I left
school. I was listening to the commentary on my
transistor radio, hidden in my desk with an ear-plug
cord threaded up my sleeve and blissfully unaware
the teacher had re-entered the room. A furlong
from home I announced “L ordship is going to win”
when my desk top flew up and an incensed Brother
Fergus grabbed the radio and marched me off for
half a dozen of the best.
Horse racing had a long history on dad’s side of
the family. His father bred the great Harold Logan,
winner of two New Zealand Cups in the Depression
years. Unfortunately, Harold had been sold for a
song before he even went to the races.
Dad had played hockey for Canterbury and New
South Wales and cricket for Canterbury B, West
Coast and in Sydney as a young man. Later, he was
treasurer of the West Coast Rugby League when
the 1946 Great Britain team was beaten at Victoria
Park, and president of the hockey and cricket
associations. No wonder I inherited a love of sport.
But he was also one of Greymouth’s gentlemen
bookies who saved patrons the problem of having
to leave various hotel bars around the town to walk
to the TAB. His sense of fair play prevented him
from destroying the evidence when the police came
calling, leading to several absences from home and a
gap in the wallpaper where the telephone used to be.
Pubs inevitably played a big part in Greymouth
life and in our family folklore. Harold Logan was
bred at the Springfield Hotel. Granddad had several
other hotels in Canterbury, and after he passed
away dad came back to Greymouth from Sydney
— he had gone for a three-week holiday and stayed
seven years — to help his mother at the Railway
Hotel. When I was born dad was mine host of the
Richmond. But because I had a habit of pushing my
little sister in her walkie across the railway lines to
the edge of the wharf mum decided we needed to
On a trip to Ireland I bought a Coffey family
crest, which appropriately consists of three drinking
mugs — green and gold, of course. I still have vague
memories of empty wooden beer barrels clanking
around a flooded basement at the Richmond, and of
tractors being unloaded from coastal freighters.
Learning to drink was part of adolescent life. We
would walk into a pub in descending order, with
someone like Kevin Dixon leading the way, down
to those of us who were comparative weeds. One
barman at the Brian Boru, setting up 8oz glasses,
thundered “no one learns to drink in my pub” when
someone asked for a 5oz beer.
And there was a particularly wet and muddy hour
up the hill behind the Australasian while a sergeant
and constable took their time chatting to publican
Billy Budd and enjoying a couple of lemonades.
“And tell those young buggers they will have to
explain to their parents the state they are in when
they get home,” said the sergeant to Billy as he
Smoking was also an important lesson. Availability
was usually based around pinching some of mum’s
Capstan Plain. But for a couple of weeks I found
another source. Most of the other prefects were
suspended from duty for smoking on a rugby trip.
That left very few of us to carry out gate duties and
penalise late comers. I thought it was fair to give
known smokers the choice of writing 25 lines or
handing over a cigarette. It took me 22 years to kick
My last year on the Coast was blighted by the
Mackay Street murder. Some idiot who worked as
a hotel porter got a girl in the family way. When he
offered to marry her, his prospective father-in-law
showed him the door. She lived down the railway
line south of Greymouth, so he hatched a plan to
break into a sports shop, steal a gun and ammo,
catch the railcar and shoot the father. Instead, he
missed the railcar and shot the first person he saw
— an innocent schoolboy walking home to Cobden
from the movies.
A few minutes later I came from Cobden into
Mackay Street on my trusty Honda 50 and saw a
stationary car with its doors open (the occupants
were hiding). As I went past the car I noticed
someone lying on the ground and figured there
must have been an accident. Instead of turning
into Tainui Street and going home, I went back to
help. From out of the dark this bloke jumped on to
the scooter’s back seat and said he wanted to go to
the police station. My first thought was that I still
had my L plates and was not licensed to carry a
Instead of taking the well-lit main street, I went
around a dark side alley by the Greymouth Star and
into Mawhera Q uay.
“Did you have an accident?” I asked.
“No, I shot him,” he said.
Only then did I notice the object in his hand
was a rifle, and that he was pointing it at other
homeward-bound picture-goers. It seemed to take
an eternity to get to the cop shop, where he got off
and I took off. Poor old mum heard my story with a
mixture of shock and dread, dashing to the phone to
assure the police that I was not this bloke’s getaway
The lower court hearing was held midway through
my University Entrance exams. I missed my UE by
two marks but did not ask for a recount. I already
had a job at The Press. It was not the trial which
cost me my UE — it was listening to the New
Zealand Trotting Cup during maths class. I was the
only one in our tiny sixth form who did not have his
That grounding in West Coast sport with the
Marist rugby league and cricket clubs stood me
in good stead. Despite constant conflicts between
work shifts and training I played rugby league long
enough to appear for Christchurch Marist in a club
grand final alongside Coasters Mocky Brereton, Leo
Brown and Gerry Dennehy under the coaching of
Alan Kennedy, and spent 25 years playing cricket
for St Albans, briefly at senior level.
The boss finally pulled the plug on my serious
sporting pursuits, telling me I would be bloody silly
to break a leg in late-season after being appointed
to tour Britain and France as NZPA correspondent
with the 1971 Kiwis. He was right, of course, but it
took a long time for the feet to stop itching up there
in the press box.
Those glory days in green and gold at Wingham
Park were hard to get out of the system.
Anisy and Jefferies Called Out That I Needed
Glasses will be launched at Labour Weekend
following the Marist Rugby League Club’s 90th
The Greymouth Marist Rugby League Club is
preparing to celebrate its 90th jubilee in October.
As part of the commemorations, former Marist player
GERARD MORRIS, now of Wellington, will publish
an oral history of the club, capturing the memories of
20 ex-Marist players, some who have been involved
with the club since the 1930s. Among them was John
Coffey, who grew up in Marsden Road and was a
long-time league writer for the Christchurch Press.
On the steps of Huddersfield Railway Station 1971: Marist man Mocky Brereton, flanked by Graeme Cooksley and Ken Stirling, chats with the Queen while
Bill Burgoyne, Phillip Orchard, NZPA correspondent John Coffey and Gary Woollard wait in vain for a turn. Fellow West Coaster, Gary Smith, is at far left of top
row. Her Majesty obviously noticed Coffey; she awarded him a QSM 43 years later.
Marist ’s champion sixth
grade team in 1961: Back
row, J Greaney, J Quinlan,
D McEnaney, R Twist.
Middle row: Coach, Brother
Majella, P Brown, K Smith,
D Baird, A Reiha, G Cowan,
manager Pat Taylor.
Front row: K O’Brien, L
Morris, captain P Mason,
vice-captain J Coffey,
T Williams, M Kennedy.
Mason, Reiha and Cowan
were schoolboy Kiwis that
year and Coffey played for
Rolling out the memories: Andrew Neilson, left, Gerry Morris, Mick O’Donnell and Tony Coll,
winners of the 1972 St Patrick’s Sports beer barrel rolling competition.
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